Party hard in Glasgow

Party hard in Glasgow

Words: Florian Obkircher
Photography: Dan Wilton

Forget London, forget Berlin: Glasgow is the true party capital of Europe. The Red Bulletin samples the combined power of fast-paced parties and monastic wine with the city’s superstar DJ and local hero, Jackmaster.

Glasgow is a city of extremes. It has the highest crime rate in all of Scotland, the lowest life expectancy in the U.K., and some say it’s one of the least attractive cities in Europe. Glaswegian actor Billy Connolly once joked, “The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterward.”

And yet this city of almost 600,000 has become northern Europe’s boomtown for club music. Around eight years ago, local musicians such as Rustie and Hudson Mohawke broke through with their garish take on wonky hip-hop; today they’re producing hits for rap icons like Kanye West

And last year it was scene newcomer Sophie who helped more seasoned stars such as Madonna and Charli XCX find chart success.

Nightlife Glasgow

Want to know what Jack Revill, aka Jackmaster, hates? Parties where he’s not DJing. That’s why he was behind the decks at his own birthday party, to the delight of the crowd.

James Murphy, frontman of New York dance-punk legends LCD Soundsystem, has equally extreme views on Glasgow; for him, it’s the best city in the world. “The crowd is really committed, one way or the other,” he says. “They’re your friend or your enemy; there’s no gray area. Glasgow crowds have been really generous to us, really going for it and giving us as much energy as they can, and that makes us play better.”

How does the city’s tarnished reputation tally with the intense creativity and party spirit of its inhabitants? What is this hidden pulse beneath the shabby exterior? The man partly responsible for its emerging party rep is Jack Revill, aka Jackmaster. Since 2006, the rough- voiced Glaswegian with the ’50s ’do has been bringing local talent to the world through his multiple record labels.

“The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterward.”
Glaswegian actor Billy Connolly

Revill also happens to be one of the most sought-after underground DJs on the planet—he ranked fifth in the Top DJs of 2015 poll by club music bible Resident Advisor—and is behind the decks three times a week at the world’s hottest clubs, jetting between Ibiza, Berlin and his hometown with his trusty record bag.

To celebrate Revill’s 30th birthday, The Red Bulletin went to Glasgow to party with the Red Bull Music Academy alumnus and discover what has shaped the city’s unique club culture.

Nightlife Glasgow

Let’s get the party started…!

Sunday, 4 p.m.

A low-lit burger joint in Glasgow’s West End. Film posters from Hollywood’s golden era adorn the dark red walls. Rock ’n’ roll classics waft tinnily from an old-fashioned jukebox. Jack Revill sips his cola and stares a little mournfully out of the fogged-up window. 

Outside, the rain continues to fall. Two days ago he was performing on a luxury cruise ship in the Caribbean. He wouldn’t have minded tagging a couple of days’ holiday onto his trip to paradise, but celebrate a milestone birthday without his crew? No way.

Jack Revill

Jackmaster has hired one of the biggest clubs in the city for the occasion, and well-known fellow DJs including Skream and Oneman have confirmed they’ll be joining him. Local newspaper Evening Times has billed the night as “a riot of epic proportions,” and the 1,500 tickets sold out in seconds. 

No wonder: The DJ is a hero in the city, because he can make any event—from an underground club night to a corporate party—rock like no one else. And he does all this with a glow of local pride.

“My life would be easier if I moved to London,” says Revill, “but Glasgow keeps me grounded. When you’ve performed in some big club in Europe in front of 5,000 people, it’s good to get back home and have your friends slag you off! The people here have a special sense of humor. You don’t get away with any diva nonsense.“

Nightlife Glasgow

On the circuit, Revill is seen as a people’s DJ. His music collection has something for everyone and he loves to get close to the crowd.

5:20 p.m.

The taxi ride to the venue—SWG3, close to the River Clyde—takes us past dilapidated Victorian brick buildings covered in crumbling plaster. Revill points to a link between the level of decline in the city and the rise in the party scene. 

“From an objective point of view, living here is shit,” he says. “There’s nothing to do in Glasgow. Unless you’re really clever and get good grades at school, you end up working in a call center, getting f*cked up on a Friday night. Hudson Mohawke is a perfect example of someone who started making music as a kind of escape.”

“From an objective point of view, living here is shit. There’s nothing to do in Glasgow.”
Jack Revill

5:40 p.m. 

The line outside SWG3 stretches around the corner. Security guards try to maintain order among the excited crowd. 

In spite of the rain and 40-degree temperatures, women wear miniskirts and spaghetti-strap tops, apparently seeing no need for a jacket. “Scottish women are tough,” says the driver as Revill slings his record bag over his shoulder.

Nightlife Glasgow

5:50 p.m. 

The 1,600-square-foot main section of the club, formerly a warehouse owned by Customs & Excise, has all the charm of an underground car park. Six bare concrete pillars break up the space, and there are thick metal pipes running along the length of the ceiling. 

Not that the aesthetics have done anything to dampen spirits. Heavy house beats boom from the two huge sound systems on stage. The party is already in full swing.

7:30 p.m.

DJ Oneman plays the new Four Tet remix of Eric Prydz’s club anthem “Opus.” The track has a now-infamous five-minute break where the beat dies away, leaving just a synthesizer melody that builds in intensity. 

It lives up to its reputation as an aural secret weapon: When the beat kicks back in, the place goes wild. Those dancing close to the DJ shake the crowd barrier; a stage-diver pushes against the sound system and almost brings it down. 

The party has already been going for two hours, yet in Glasgow’s living rooms the evening’s prime-time viewing hasn’t even begun. It’s already wilder here than it would be at prime time at a rave in Berlin. In fact, nowhere do parties go from 0-100 quicker than in Glasgow. The reason? Strict closing times.

Nightlife Glasgow

“Your set’s up next, Ted…” DJ Oneman and the Kurupt FM guys bear-wrestle backstage.

Tonight, Sunday, the club shuts at midnight. On Friday and Saturday it’s 3 a.m., with no exceptions. These laws were introduced in 1993 as a response to the high levels of drunkenness and violence in the city. 

“That may seem provincial compared with London,” Revill roars over the throbbing noise, “but it’s these strict rules that make our parties so exuberant. The earlier the clubs close, the more people go for it. Parties in other cities are marathons. 

Here, they’re sprints, driven on by an all-or-nothing lifestyle of excess. Nobody here has time. Nobody’s patient. Nobody waits at the bar for the party to get into gear. Everyone goes for it.

“And quite aside from all that,” he adds with a smirk, “Scottish people are f*cking bonkers anyway!”

7:50 p.m.

“Want to know how party animals get into the mood?” Revill asks. In his hand is a glass containing something black. Its taste is hard to describe, like old Jägermeister mixed with cough syrup, and it takes some getting used to. 

The mystery liquid is Buckfast Tonic Wine—or Buckie for short—a fortified drink that’s been made by monks in England since the 1880s. Originally marketed as a medicine, it’s now legendary on the Scottish party scene for its absinthe-like effects.

Nightlife Glasgow

Dubstep pioneer Skream (right): “Jack is my favorite DJ in the world.”

9 p.m.

Revill arrives on stage atop Skream’s shoulders and the crowd goes wild. He surveys the scene with satisfaction, then starts his set with a pumping techno track. Oneman dances at the front of the stage and pours vodka straight from the bottle into revelers’ mouths. 

Ten minutes in, Revill mixes a house track with a rock ’n’ roll number, blending the two so elegantly that few of the clubbers notice they’re on a musical journey through time. 

Only when Chuck Berry’s guitar erupts and the famous refrain rings out—“Riding along in my automobile …”—does everyone recognize the classic. Revill clambers up onto the decks himself and shakes his hips in time.

“JACK IS A BRILLIANT TECHNICIAN AND A SHOWMAN. that’s why people love him.”
DJ Krystal Klear

10:20 p.m.

Revill’s protégé, DJ Krystal Klear, fresh from a set on the second dance floor, stands grinning next to the stage. “He’s a brilliant technician and a showman,” he says. ”That’s why people love him.” Revill doesn’t hide behind the decks. He’s part of the party and lets the crowd celebrate him.

Nightlife Glasgow

Krystal Klear captivates the crowd with boogie and house beats.

11:10 p.m.

The backstage area upstairs looks like someone’s apartment the morning after the night before: wine stains on the white sofa, a man-sized teddy bear gagged with gaffer tape, a glass table strewn with half-drained plastic beakers, confetti on the floor. 

Revill slumps on the couch, enjoying some peace and quiet while his friends dance on downstairs. “I love playing in Glasgow because the crowd gets the best out of me,” he says. These “sprint” parties have shaped his mixing technique, too. 

“With the local crowd, you’re always going for the drop; sometimes you’re dropping a new tune every minute. It’s very gratifying. People are constantly cheering and whistling.“

Nightlife Glasgow

12 a.m.

At midnight on the dot the lights come on. The crowd make their feelings known, but security are unmoved, stony-faced. “You know the rules. Be off with you!” a red-bearded Viking of a security guard bellows. “Time to call a taxi,” says Revill.

12:10 a.m.

Parties in Glasgow don’t always end so peacefully, he explains in the back of the cab; the city’s legendary Sub Club has low ceilings full of holes, because revelers would bang on them at the end of a night to applaud the DJ. “The Italian DJ duo Tale of Us even took a piece of the ceiling home after their gig,” he grins.

On his way out, some friends invited Revill to carry on at a private after-party, but this time he gave it a miss. He has a gig the next day. No sooner does one party end than another begins.

Read more
05 2016 The Red Bulletin

Next story